Future of outdoor dining uncertain in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO — The future of outdoor dining in San Diego could soon change. Many restaurants have built outdoor structures to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, but within the next few months, businesses may have to take them down.

Little Italy is once again bustling, having gone from barely surviving at the start of the pandemic to thriving — all due to dining al fresco.

FOX 5 spoke with Dario Gallo, the owner of Civico 1845.

“They say, ‘why didn’t we think about this even before COVID?’ Dining on the piazza, dining outside makes the atmosphere even more European, Italian.” 

As a group, the Little Italy Restaurant Association applied for a temporary permit, allowing them to build large and elaborate “parklets” on city streets and parking spaces.

“In the beginning, we all thought that it was for a long time, even post-COVID, because we didn’t even know how the vaccination process would’ve been … That’s why we and other restaurants invested a lot of money in all of this with awnings and good finishes instead of building a very light structure.”

But that may soon be coming to an end, as the statewide health emergency is expected to be lifted June 15 and the temporary permits set to expire in July.

“There’s people that they think that it might stay longer for San Diego’s weather,” Gallo said. “There’s people that are afraid that it’s going to end June 15 and they’re going to tell us just to remove them. I hope that the mayor is going to help us out to keep it for longer.”

Mayor Todd Gloria has said he hopes to find a solution that would allow the restaurants to continue with outdoor dining. San Diego’s climate is ideal and there’s a demand.

Lindsay O’Bryan said she wants to see outdoor dining stay.

“We live in San Diego so I think outdoor dining is fantastic. I’d always rather be outside than inside.” 

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